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Stanford Prison Experiment

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 4,379 snorlax


    [FONT=verdana, helvetica, arial, geneva]What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph? These are some of the questions we posed in this dramatic simulation of prison life conducted in the summer of 1971 at Stanford University. [/FONT] [FONT=verdana, helvetica, arial, geneva]How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you. Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.what does this tell us about Human Nature?
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    [FONT=verdana, helvetica, arial, geneva] Volunteers [/FONT]
    [FONT=verdana, helvetica, arial, geneva] What volunteers had to do was to answer a local newspaper ad calling for volunteers in a study of the psychological effects of prison life. We wanted to see what the psychological effects were of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. To do this, we decided to set up a simulated prison and then carefully note the effects of this institution on the behavior of all those within its walls. [/FONT]
    [FONT=verdana, helvetica, arial, geneva]More than 70 applicants answered our ad and were given diagnostic interviews and personality tests to eliminate candidates with psychological problems, medical disabilities, or a history of crime or drug abuse. Ultimately, we were left with a sample of 24 college students from the U.S. and Canada who happened to be in the Stanford area and wanted to earn $15/day by participating in a study. On all dimensions that we were able to test or observe, they reacted normally. [/FONT]
    [FONT=verdana, helvetica, arial, geneva]Our study of prison life began, then, with an average group of healthy, intelligent, middle-class males. These boys were arbitrarily divided into two groups by a flip of the coin. Half were randomly assigned to be guards, the other to be prisoners. It is important to remember that at the beginning of our experiment there were no differences between boys assigned to be a prisoner and boys assigned to be a guard.
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    http://www.prisonexp.org/slide-1.htm


    i came across this experiment in my old psychology book and i thought would be interesting to post up and see what others think of it. i found this extract off a website (see link above for full experiment).

    [FONT=&quot]my own opinion is that this experiment is completely unethical as it resulted in emotional breakdown for some of the prisoners who we're treated harshly by the guards.

    does it stand up to credibility/ rigor when examined thoroughly and is it really instinctual for human beings to treat each other harshly in certain circumstances?[/FONT]


Comments



  • There's certainly a lot of evidence that backs up its findings. Similar behaviours have been seen during wars (do you really think that all German soldiers were Jew-hating extremists, I think for a large proportion of them it was a similar situation to the "guards" at Stanford).

    And of course it's unethical, it would never be allowed to be done as a psychology experiment now. Unless you're BBC2, then you can do it.




  • Oh and the Stanley Milgrim experiment is another one of these ethical minefields that I think fits in well with the Stanford experiment.

    Link




  • Big Brother anyone?

    Typical prison situation, but instead you have an entire nation watching you and not just a few prison guards.




  • well i think it is kind of interesting, is there potential in all of us to do just the same as those prison guards given the cricumstances? how many people actaully wouldn't abuse this power and who wouldn't?
    it reminds of another psych experiment where everytime the student got a question wrong they got an electric shock (increasing in voltage every time), the teachers had to adminisiter the shock by pressing the button, most even continued to do so when the subject was wailing out loud for them to stop. they're was an authority figure there telling them to continue and they did so because of a fear of authority figures even though they we're hurting another person.




  • snorlax wrote:
    well i think it is kind of interesting, is there potential in all of us to do just the same as those prison guards given the cricumstances? how many people actaully wouldn't abuse this power and who wouldn't?
    it reminds of another psych experiment where everytime the student got a question wrong they got an electric shock (increasing in voltage every time), the teachers had to adminisiter the shock by pressing the button, most even continued to do so when the subject was wailing out loud for them to stop. they're was an authority figure there telling them to continue and they did so because of a fear of authority figures even though they we're hurting another person.

    That's the Stanley Milgram one I linked to above. The subject wasn't a teacher, it was just a regular member of the public. They were sat in a room with the Milgram (in a white coat) and introduced to the person to be quizzed (a confederate of the experimentor). The confederate was an oldish man and he "lets slip" during the introduction that he has a heart condition. He then goes into the next room and is strapped into a chair with electrodes.

    The subject was then told to make him answer questions. For every question he got wrong he got a shock and each time he got a shock the voltage was to be increased. However the unit wasn't actually electrocuting the confederate, it was all a bluff but the subject didn't know it. After a while the confederate would yelp and ask for them to stop the experiment. Milgram would tell the subject to go on and for the most part they did. Eventually they were pushing up the voltages to lethal levels and still they went on when Milgram told them to.

    When they were presenting the results at a psychology conference Milgram asked the audience to guess how many of the participants actually increased the voltage to a lethal level and they all thought it would be some small negligable number. Milgram found that around 65% (!) of the participants would deliver the lethal voltage with a little prompting from an authority figure.


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  • DrIndy wrote:
    Big Brother anyone?

    Typical prison situation, but instead you have an entire nation watching you and not just a few prison guards.

    It's not quite like Big Brother. The people running Big Brother has shown restraint for the mostpart, the contestants also know they're going to be ****ed about with but they're not put at odds like in this experiment. In the Stanford experiment what was so significant was how brutal the guards became when they got power. Not only that but pretty much all the guards acted like that. It became "us and them" within hours.




  • They are interesting studies alright...

    How many times has the excuse 'i was only obeying orders/doing what i was told to do/doing my job/god told me' etc been used?

    Suppose some people are prone to unloading 'responsibilty' to a higher authority. "Not my fault, they told me to do it".




  • It's not really unloading responsibility, it's more like putting trust in an authority that what you're doing is right.




  • Channel 4 did an interesting remake of the prisoner / guard experiment. It really did make interesting television. It was stopped early as things got out of hand.

    The thing I found interesting about the Milgram experiment was that he actually designed it a a test for psychopathy to be run in Germany as at the time people were trying to work out why they had allowed the thing that happened in the war to happen.

    As part of the process to test the experiment and get a benchmark for his study he ran it in the states prior to taking it to Germany. I think it is fair to say he was very surprised by the result.

    MrP




  • There's a documentary that was on BBC a while back called "5 steps to Tyranny", and it covers noth Stanford prison experiment and the Milgrim experiment. Very scary to see what humans would do if they weren't held responsible.


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